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May SWENexter Meet & Greet: Engineering Management Graduates

This month we are highlighting two SWENexter's for our SWENexter Meet & Greet series. Learn about the engineering management journeys of Irene and Anjali and why they love STEM!
December Swenexter Meet & Greet

Meet Irene, a recent engineering management graduate!

Irene recently earned her bachelor’s and her master’s degrees from the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA). She earned her B.S. in civil engineering and her M.S. in engineering management. She now works at DOWL, a company that specializes in engineering project planning.

May SWENexter Meet & Greet: Engineering Management Graduates - engineering managementWhat made you decide to go into engineering management and civil engineering?

When I was sitting in my physics class in my senior year in high school, I saw a poster on the board. The poster advertised a local engineering club geared towards introducing high school students to the various fields of engineering that met twice a month during the school year. A group of friends and I thought it would be a fun after-school activity. We decided to attend it. I learned so much about engineering and we did some hands-on activities to test our engineering skills during each session.

What did you know about engineering management and civil engineering when you were a child?

I hardly knew anything about civil engineering when I was a child. I knew there was a lot of drafting and drawing involved using large sheets of paper and rulers. I learned a lot more about the field in high school.

Can you describe what it was like studying for your degree in engineering management and civil engineering?

A day in my life of studying, I got to school early to find a good parking spot. I would go to class and find a quiet corner to study. Then I would decide if I wanted to leave campus to grab lunch and risk losing my parking spot. After lunch, I would attend another class or two, then go to the study room I reserved in the library to work on homework.

But now all that is behind me. As a transportation engineer, I get to work on some pretty neat and exciting projects every day at the office. One of the current projects I’m leading is repairing sections of road damaged by a large magnitude 7.0 earthquake that happened between Palmer and Anchorage in 2018.

While pursuing my undergraduate degree, there were plenty of opportunities to work as an intern part-time while going to school. When I decided to go for my graduate degrees, I was working full-time during the day and attending classes in the evenings. I liked how UAA’s graduate degree programs were structured for students who are also working. UAA provided a variety of courses to customize the field of study. I was able to continue with graduate-level civil engineering courses that concentrated on transportation design, which is my career focus.

What I loved most about UAA was being able to attend college in my hometown and the opportunities for professional development they offered. Being involved in extracurricular activities such as engineering clubs in school and professional societies early on in my career taught me how to network with individuals to create those good working relationships. The faculty at UAA also worked very hard to make sure their students were taken care of early on by providing opportunities to pair with working professionals as mentors to guide them through class projects.

Do you have one piece of advice for our readers who may be interested in pursuing a career in civil engineering or engineering management?

You don’t have to be the best at math and science to be an engineer. You just have to be willing to stay focused and work hard. Try your best to really enjoy what you’re learning in school.

Meet Anjali, a recent engineering management graduate!

Anjali recently graduated from Cornell University with her bachelor’s and her master’s degrees. She earned her B.S. in chemical engineering and her M.S. in engineering management. Anjali is currently a process engineer at Mondelez International. Mondelez International is the company that makes Oreos.

May SWENexter Meet & Greet: Engineering Management Graduates - engineering management

What made you decide to go into engineering management and chemical engineering?

I have always enjoyed math and science since elementary school. Engineering was a great way to combine these interests with a creative, problem-solving skill set.

I chose chemical engineering specifically because of its hands-on application in a wide range of industries. Engineering management supplemented the technical skills of my undergraduate degree. Through my M.S. in engineering management, I gained communication, teamwork, business, and leadership skills that will be useful in any career.

Can you tell us about a cool project you worked on as a chemical engineering and engineering management student?

As a chemical engineering student, I worked on some really cool group projects. In one of my group projects, we explored the use of apples as feedstock in the United States. In another project, we researched how nanoparticles with chemotherapy can treat advanced colorectal cancer with a photo-sensitizer. In a third project, my group researched formulating a natural deodorant in the lab and then modeling the scaled-up mixing process by making a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) model.

For my engineering management capstone project, I served as the project manager on a team of mechanical engineering master’s students. This taught me critical leadership, organizational, and interpersonal skills to ensure that the team performed to everyone’s strengths and delivered the objectives to our sponsor company on time.

Tell us about a time you failed. How did you overcome that?

During my first internship I assumed I could figure everything out on my own, right from the beginning. This caused me to use a piece of equipment incorrectly. This resulted in broken glassware in the lab.

I learned that I missed a safety step which I would not have missed if I had asked my manager for the correct protocol before using the machine for the first time. From then on, I understood that safety is the highest priority.

It is always important to ask for help and for the correct procedures from the beginning. This way, you do not repeat mistakes or teach bad practices to others.

How is cultural diversity important in engineering management and chemical engineering?

Cultural diversity is definitely important in any field. While fewer women and people of different cultural backgrounds choose to become engineers, it is important that more do.

People from all sorts of backgrounds bring different perspectives. They may have different ways of solving problems. They may also be aware of problems that most people might not be. They may come up with a new idea that would not have been thought of.

It is important to consider all voices and opinions in order to bring about creative and ethical solutions to engineering challenges.


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